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NMRAPaul
03-15-2007, 04:46 PM
The 2007 NMRA season got off to a flying start in Bradenton, Florida at the 6th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Ford Nationals on March 8-11, with plenty of sun, a pit full of cars, stands filled with fans, and a dump truck full of money going home with one particular racer. The first race of the season is always exciting thanks to new cars making their debut, champions returning to defend their titles, and racers who came close last time around looking to come out of the gate strong. But this year, the Vortech Shootout, the first in a series of special events held during qualifying, added an extra measure of anticipation to Friday and Saturday’s DiabloSport Pro 5.0 qualifying. At stake was a total of $10,000 in additional prize money, with a check for five grand awaiting the driver who could run the gauntlet of the top drivers from last season in the quals. Better still, a driver who ran the table and went undefeated in both the qualifying shootout and Sunday’s main event would earn not only the five grand from Vortech and the five thousand in purse money for eliminations, but a special double-up bonus of an additional $10,000, bringing the total potential payout for a single driver to a cool 20 large.

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2006 DiabloSport Pro 5.0 champ Michael Hauf started his title defense on Friday in the first round of the Vortech shootout, run concurrently with Pro 5.0 qualifying. Paired with the overmatched Outlaw-spec Cobra driven by Dan Schoneck, Hauf notched an easy win with a 6.619 to Schoneck’s high-seven pass, demonstrating that the Champ hadn’t lost a lick over the winter break. Shootout round two on Saturday paired him against Joe Morgan, who was coming off a 6.658 pass on Friday. Both drivers had slowed, but Hauf’s .676 was enough to overcome a .736 from Morgan, and send him on to the Big Money Round Saturday afternoon. There, he’d meet the only man in Pro 5.0 who had never been beat, Tony Bischoff. On Friday, Bischoff knocked off an easy 6.650-to-7.764 victory against Walter Drakeford’s retro-fabulous ’69 Mustang, then came up against Bert Kelkboom first thing on Saturday. The Aruban was playing for keeps, advancing on Friday with a huge 6.609 at 212, but a 6.753 wasn’t going to do it against Bischoff’s 6.673 pace. That left just two drivers, and when the lights came down, Hauf was away first with a heart-stopping .005 light to Bischoff’s .134. As the cars shot towards the traps, Bischoff closed the distance, running a quicker 6.625 to Hauf’s 6.647, but ran out of track before he could erase the Champ’s lead, losing his first heads-up round of Pro 5.0 competition by just over a tenth of a second and earning Mike Hauf a $5,000 holeshot win.


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Though he fell in the second round of the Shootout to Bischoff, Bert Kelkboom’s 6.609 on Friday would stand as the high-water mark in DiabloSport Pro 5.0 qualifying, followed by Hauf’s 6.619, Bischoff’s 6.625, and Joe Morgan rounding out the top half of the 8-car field with a 6.658. Though David Schorr’s 6.673 was only good for fifth slot, his 211-and-change trap speed hinted that he might have a little more left in the car once he got the short end worked out. Howard Michael, Walter Drakeford, and Dan Schoneck completed the roster with a trio of mid-to-high sevens. The first round of eliminations paired Shootout winner Hauf against Drakeford, and the race was over almost immediately thanks to a lifting 8.849 for Drakeford. That set up a rematch between Hauf and Bischoff, and once again Hauf clicked off a double-aught light (a .004 this time) to Bischoff’s .089. Hauf would need every tick, too – a 6.684 pass to Bischoff’s quicker 6.625 left him just .026 seconds ahead through the beams, a margin of victory measuring a scant 8 feet. That left Hauf, the only man to ever beat Bischoff in a Pro 5.0 car, with only one opponent between him and a $15,000 payday. That man was FFW champ David Schorr, who had gotten around a limping 9-second pass from Joe Morgan in the first round, then caught another break in the second when Dan Schoneck had problems as well. Easy rounds or not, Schorr had still brought his A-game, running a 6.67-6.68 pace that gave nothing up to Hauf’s numbers. In the finals, Hauf was away first, .058 to .081, and extended his slim lead down-track, with Schorr slowing just before the traps and notching a 6.762 at 203.98 to Hauf’s big-money 6.681 at 210.

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The drama was running high in MSD Ignition Super Street Outlaw in Florida, with several drivers showing up early in the week to get their mojo working before the main event. 7.40’s were the talk of the track in test-and-tune, with Sam Vincent running 7.46 and Manny Buginga sliding in underneath at 7.45. Once the runs started to count, though, it was John Urist out to an early lead with a 7.605 on Friday. That hit would stand until the final round of qualifying on Saturday, when a last minute 7.537 put Buginga on the pole despite Urist bettering his own mark to 7.591. Third slot was claimed by Yanni “Supergreek” Papakosmas at 7.636, followed by Don Burton, Zack Posey, Richard Lelsz, and Sam Vincent, all running under 7.80, with the rest of the 15-car field stretched out behind. The odd field gave Buginga a first round bye, then matched him against Posey, who went down swinging, 7.714 to 7.596. That paired Buginga against Vincent in the semi-finals, who had found his tune-up, running 7.588 against Billy Driscoll and 7.538 versus Supergreek on the way there. Vincent was out of the hole first with a .015 light to Buginga’s .029, but fell off on the top end and couldn’t fend off the turbo car’s charge, going down 7.603 to 7.587. On the other side of the ladder, Urist was hammering away, getting past a limping 9.70 pass from Don Shobe in the opener, then running 7.723-to-7.791 against Richard Lelsz in the second. In the semis, Urist bested Don Burton at the tree by almost a tenth, then capped it with a 7.701 to Burton’s 7.754 to earn his slot in the finals. There, the race everyone was waiting for turned out to be a non-event; Buginga’s coupe faltered just past the tree, and Urist was gone in the distance, winning the first event in his title defense chase.

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ProCharger EFI Renegade drew a dozen cars for the opening round of 2007, led by Joel Howard in qualifying with an 8.668 at 157.39. Right behind him was defending champ Brian Mitchell at 8.676, followed by Aaron Stapleton, back for another season despite rumors to the contrary. Bart Tobener, Tony Orts, and Bob Cook rounded out the top half of the field, while Mike Catapano was the last member of the eight-second club. In eliminations, Howard got an unexpected bye when Mike Catapano left before the tree came down, then unexpectedly fell himself to Tobener in the quarter-finals, 9.229 to 8.889. That gave Tobener the polesitter’s single in the semis, shooting him directly into the final round against the guy with number one on his windshield. Mitchell had started out the day with his own broke bye when Brent Weston couldn’t take the beams, then clipped an 8.709 against Chris Beary’s 8.834 in the second. When Stapleton couldn’t make the call in the semis, it was clear sailing for Mitchell straight to the last matchup. Unfortunately for Mitchell’s hopes of repeating, a slow .212 light and limping high-12 pass weren’t going to do the trick, with Tobener taking an easy 9.760 ride into the winner’s circle.

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Despite being one of the most brutally competitive classes in the NMRA, Edelbrock Hot Street always draws racers like moths to a flame. In Bradenton, the seductive glow brought no fewer than 14 cars to the lanes, and at the end of the day on Saturday, 2006 champ Charlie Booze, Jr. led the field in qualifying with an 8.799 at 153. Andy Schmidt, Robert Blankenship, Bangin’ Bob Hanlon, Justin Curry, and Mike DeMayo all had an 8.80 to their credit, with the balance of the field trailing into the 90’s and beyond. On Sunday, Booze was a surprising early casualty thanks to a brutal .006-to-.138 treeing at the hands of Ben Mens. Second-qualified Schmidt suffered a similar defeat versus ninth-qualified Tim Eichhorn, leaving the field wide-open. It wasn’t until the semi-finals that things regained a semblance of sanity, with Justin Curry driving around a Max Gross holeshot and Robert Blankenship catching a break when Ben Mens pushed a little too hard and caught a -.010 redlight for his trouble. In the final round, it was Curry out first and Blankenship playing catch-up, the .016-to-.033 holeshot erased by an 8.796 pass from Blankenship, besting Curry’s 8.828.

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Let the bench-racing begin! In Bradenton, BFGoodrich Tires Drag Radial saw the first eight-oh passes in class history, both coming from turbo cars that saw extensive testing over the winter break. In qualifying, John “Iceman” Kolivas and Chris Tuten traded shots, with Kolivas coming out ahead with a class-leading 8.043 at 174.48. Tuten’s 8.051 showed he had just as much on tap, while Chad Doyle brought up third spot with an 8.223, showing an apparent disparity for the once-mighty blower cars. With 14 cars in the show, things got very interesting right away on Sunday. Kolivas came out of the blocks with a .014 light and dispatched Mauro Vitale with an 8.113. Second round saw the Iceman take his top-qualifier bye, and Kolivas used the opportunity to see just how far he could push the tree with a -.005 mulligan redlight and a twelve out the back end. The semifinals were another unexpected bye thanks to breakage from Chad Doyle, giving Kolivas a free pass into the all-turbo final round. His rival, Chris Tuten, started off his Sunday with an oh-nine pass against Matthew Butrim, followed by an easy 8.762 win over the broken Bob Kurgan. The semi-finals paired Tuten against the faster-than-a-Modular-should-be Joey Bridge; though Bridge was off-pace with a 9.229, Tuten had all the stops pulled out and ran 8.020 at nearly 178 mph, setting the new high-water mark for Drag Radial performance. When Kolivas and Tuten finally met in the final round, the Iceman was a bit slower than usual off the line, only carding a .035 light, but proved his Frigidare-white Cobra had an 02 in it as well, running 8.024 at 175.57 to Tuten’s slowing 8.252 and taking top honors.

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5.0 Mustang Real Street might not be exactly the same now that Uncle Robin is “playing for the other team” over at GM, but that didn’t stop a lucky seven racers from battling it out in Bradenton. At the top of the qualifying order was Tim Matherly with a 9.853, while Jim Breese also found a nine-second tuneup with a 9.897 good for second. Nitrous racer Bruce Hemminger came in three tenths behind at 10.198. In eliminations, Matherly took an easy first round bye, then knocked off Hemminger in the semis, 9.823 to 9.963, despite giving up the leave. On the far side of the ladder, Breeze fell early to fifth-qualified Paul Alfeo when he could only muster a high twelve in the first round. Alfeo got another break when Mike Washington pulled a -.026 redlight in the semis, setting up a somewhat lopsided final round. Alfeo, no faster than the 10.30’s all weekend, knew he needed any advantage he could grab against Matherly in the finals, and hit the tree just a bit too hard. Alfeo went down swinging with a -.025 redlight that he ran out to a 10.330, a moot point considering that Matherly’s clockwork 9.878 would be good for the gold in any case.

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Plenty of familiar faces filled out the ranks of Tremec Pure Street in Bradenton, and Bad Brad Meadows topped the qualifying order with a 10.317 pass on Friday that nobody else would be able to touch. Jimmy Wilson came closest with a 10.377 (and an additional 2 mph through the traps), followed by Mike Tymensky, Teddy Weaver, and Victor Downs all on the sunny side of 10.50. The balance of the 11-car field was clustered within six tenths of the pole, making for one of the more closely-matched heads-up fields of the weekend. On Sunday, Meadows took his opening single out to a 10.342, proving his Friday pass wasn’t a fluke, then backed it up with a 10.356 to Weaver’s 10.506 in the second round. The semi-finals paired Meadows with Ryan Hecox, who had picked up the pace since qualifying, but a 10.379 with a sleepy .217 light wasn’t going to cut it against Meadows’ .026 reaction and 10.358 pass. Meanwhile, Jimmy Wilson was climbing his side of the ladder, getting past Jon Green without a fight in the opening round, then taking Victor Downs in a photo-finish 10.424-to10.478 race in the second, with a combined margin of victory of just .043 seconds. After that near-death experience, Wilson rode out his competition semi-final bye straight into the money round. Unfortunately, a big -.176 redlight from Wilson gave up the win to Meadows without a fight, both drivers running their best ET’s of the weekend despite the foul start.

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Though some might argue that 13 is an unlucky number of competitors, the racers in K&N Factory Stock might disagree, with more than half the field finding an 11 as their good luck charm in qualifying. Steve Gifford was the luckiest (or at least the quickest) of the lot with an 11.556, followed by Tommy Godfrey’s 11.644, Jonathan Paulk at 11.711, Brian Marr with an 11.823, and John Leslie, Jr., who posted an 11.837. Gifford ran out the odd-field first round single, then took out Leslie, running quicker than in qualifying with an 11.517. Gifford’s weekend ended abruptly in the semis, though – an 11.566 from sixth-qualified Jeff Schmell combined with an off-pace 12.089 meant the end of the festivities, with Schmell going on to the finals. There, he’d meet up with Godfrey, who had dispatched Alan Cann in the first round, taken the second competition bye in the quarter-finals, then hammered out a killer 11.500 to trailer Carlos Sobrino in the third round. In an odd turn of events, Schmell jumped the gun to the tune of -.047 in the final round, while Godfrey posted a pokey-but-winning .212 light to claim the first FS title of the year.

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It takes one hell of a quick foot to beat 25 other drivers to the punch in Roush Performance Modular Muscle qualifying, and veteran racer Robert Hindman has just such a foot, proven by his .001 light in the third round on Saturday. Local Floridian Clint London was right behind with a .002, while Chris Colitas rounded out the top three at .007. After four rounds of racing, the field had narrowed to Derek Kernodle on one side, and Roxanne Shepard on the other. When the tree dropped, Kernodle’s side came down first thanks to his slower index, and he was away with a .019 light. When Shepard’s ambers flashed, she was away quicker than Kernodle – too quick by .016 seconds, turning on the win light in Kernodle’s lane and handing him the victory.

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Out of the thirty racers in Crane Cams Open Comp, you’d have to go all the way down the qualifying list to number 21 before you came to your first reaction time slower than .099. Ray Morla led the bunch with a .003, followed by Scott Baumgartner at .005, and Andy Blackmon and Drew Lyons tied at .007. On Sunday, four rounds of racing condensed the field to the final pair – Don Bowles, switching from Mod Muscle this year in anticipation of a pushrod transplant later in the year, and local hot shoe David Woodside in a beautiful big-block ’84 T-Bird. Woodside got the green first and was away with a .128 light, but when Bowles’ side dropped, a .052 gave him a jump and he relentlessly ran the T-Bird down, posting a 9.302 on his 9.23 index to Woodside’s losing 10.792-on-10.74.

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Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning experienced a resurgence of popularity in Bradenton, with 15 different racers making a pass in qualifying. First on the list was Johnny “Lightning” Wiker with a .038 reaction, followed by Jim Roberts, Chad Cribb, and Steve Martin all with an oh-something to their credit. Roberts parleyed his skill at the tree into a final round appearance against Robert Steamer, who had qualified 12th but put together wins in the first and third rounds with a bye in the second to make it to the Big Show. There, a .212 light from Roberts against Steamer’s tardy .602 sealed the deal – despite Roberts’ 12.718 on a 12.26 dial, even Steamer’s 12.688-on-12.59 wasn’t going to cut it, and the win light came on in Roberts’ lane.